Sunday, April 9, 2017

Nonfiction that Reads Like Fiction with Stephanie Pitts

Stephanie Pitts, editor with G.P. Putnam's Sons, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group, feels that there are many nonfiction opportunities within the school and library market, thanks to Common Core, STEM, and STEAM.

The most common type of nonfiction in picture books is the straightforward biography. Stephanie cautions that rather than a birth to death timeline of someone's life, writers should choose a particular time, or important event, in their character's life. If it resonated with the author, it can resonate with readers.

Like in fiction, writers should make sure that their characters, whether main or secondary, are well developed and interesting. Stories should have conflict, shape, and direction.

What does a nonfiction picture book look like if it's not a biography? Many authors choose to focus their stories on fascinating historical events and periods.

The approach to middle grade nonfiction is similar, with more depth within characters and details. There should be strong voice and style. Writers can find a marketable topic that shines a new light on a subject. Something should need to be overcome. Regardless of the approach, writers should immerse themselves in research and think about the best conceptual approach. Consider the organization of information. Stephanie says many nonfiction middle grade and YA pieces are leaning toward the narrative, and away from the sidebar, more textbook-like structure. Seek to go beyond informing to engaging. 

Candace Fleming's books always include backmatter on how she chose and researched a topic-- a valuable model for aspiring nonfiction writers.

Dispelling myths is an essential factor in writing nonfiction for kids and teens. Fun fact: No part of the Lizzie Borden rhyme is true. Want to know the facts? Check out:

Go forth, engage readers, dispel myths, and shed light on new information!


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